The Doctrine of Life: With Some of Its Theological Applications/The Fall

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The Doctrine of Life: With Some of Its Theological Applications.
VI—The Fall.
Back. William B. Greene. Forward.

IN every fact of life we have three terms, the being that lives, the object in conjunction with which he lives, and the relation between the two. If, in any system, whether philosophical or theological, we fail to recognize the first of these terms, the being that lives, we throw ourselves altogether upon the objective element of life. But, if we regard only that objective element, we shall, as we have previously shown, immediately find ourselves involved in a system that accounts for all human conduct by the sole action of external influences; in other words, in a system of downright fatalism.

Several theological systems, by directing the attention exclusively to the doctrines of God's sovereignty, the decrees, God s foreknowledge, special providences, &c., have winked man altogether out of sight; and have, consequently, been led to the error above indicated. By failing to recognize one of the elements of life, they have, in fact, failed to recognize life itself; throughout these systems, there reigns, therefore, universal death; and, instead of man and nature, they present us with a mass of complicated machinery, wherein freedom, and man's accountability, are altogether lost.

These remarks being premised, we state two formulas connected with the subject under consideration, which, as having been more generally received, call for our distinct attention.

1st. 'All mankind are totally depraved, in consequence of the fall of the first man, who was their federal head. The sin of this first man is not only imputed to all his posterity, but is also transmitted to them by physical generation, so that every child born into the world, brings with him this inherited sin. (For all mankind, being in the loins of the first man, sinned with him.) The corruption consequent upon this fall renders man unable to turn to God, or to do any good thing, and exposes him to God's righteous displeasure, both in this world, and that which is to come.'

This is an exaggerated statement of the objective conditions of the depraved life now extant in the world, and, as such, is very valuable. But man, and man's accountability, are, by it, thrown far into the background.

2d. 'That the sins of our first parents were imputed to them only, and not to their posterity; and that we derive no corruption whatever from their fall; but are born as pure and unspotted as Adam, when he came out of the forming hand of the Creator.' This statement, taken by itself, is false; but is valuable as a protest against the excesses of the first. It asserts the subjective element of life which has been neglected, and reinstates the man. This protest is renewed from age to age, and is of the utmost importance for preserving the purity of the doctrine which the first of our two statements is intended, by its advocates, to cover.

According to the most authentic accounts which have descended to us concerning the early history of the race, we conclude that all the different nations of the earth originally sprang from a single pair. We shall waive, for the present, the question of the origin of evil, and assume at once, on the same historical authority, that this first pair sinned. To explain the effect of this sin upon their posterity, let us apply the doctrine of life, as already stated. After the first pair had sinned, and were expelled from paradise, children were born to them. The parents, who were sinners, became the objects of the lives of these children; and all the life which the children lived in humanity, was lived in their parents—for, beside them, there were no men and women. The lives of the children, being depraved in its objective portion, at once became sinful.<ref> O. A. Brownson: On the mediatorial life of Jesus.</ref>

These children became, in their turn, the objects in which their children lived; and, as they themselves were sinners, the lives of their children became also depraved. This impaired life was again transmitted by these last, and thus was communicated to the race from generation to generation. It is absolutely impossible for any one to escape the flood of sin which was thus infused into the world. No one has absolute control over the object of his life; and, whether that object be good or evil, he must live in it before he can know whether to choose or reject it.

According to the record of these transactions, the worst of crimes were committed almost immediately after this death-imparting influence was infused into the race. We first find the gentle murdered by the violent; after this, tyrants—called giants and sons of God—who oppressed the earth; then licentiousness, and the insolence of power, until God repented himself that he had made man, and sent a flood to destroy the race.

One family alone survived this flood, but the death-mark survived with it.

All subsequent history is a record of violence and crime. Man has been always the enemy of man. His time and ingenuity have been spent in devising engines of torture and destruction for his brother; and the whole world has been filled with blood, and chains, and tears.

Even inanimate nature seems to sympathize with fallen humanity. The moon walks in midheaven wrapped in a widow's veil, and the pale stars mourn as they follow in her silent train. The winds grieve as they sing their sad song among the branches of the waving trees. The flowers droop their heads by the side of the deep-flowing waters, and answer the wan stars of heaven in their wonderful sorrow.

They all mourn together, because the world lieth in sin, and because man is the enemy of man.

But the evil is not unmitigated; a new life has been infused into the race, which, little by little, is removing this mass of death and corruption. Eighteen hundred years ago, the measure of iniquity was full. At that time went up, before Him that liveth for ever and ever, the loud and prolonged wail of exiled humanity,—it went up before God, profaned by the clanking of chains; it went up amid the black vapor of dungeons, it went up trembling; for fear, and the damp cold of death, had seized upon men's hearts.

The cry went up before heaven, and the Lord Jehovah of hosts heard it, and he looked, and there was no one to save; then his fury it upheld him, and his own right arm wrought salvation.